Svitzer's corporate spirit is on the rise

Svitzer has its hands on a success. Using social media internally, the company has formed a global community and a new sense of team spirit.

Robert Uggla ceo
“If you’re not on Yammer for a couple of days, there’s plenty of interaction that you’ll miss,” says Svitzer CEO, Robert Uggla. Over the last year he has used Yammer as a key communication tool to connect with the Svitzer organisation.

It has always been difficult to communicate with the entire organisation at Svitzer, the Group’s towage and marine services company with 4,000 employees.

Decentralised by nature, the company has struggled to create a shared identity for years, making it difficult for management to build a strong corporate culture.

During the past year, the use of social media has changed this dramatically. Yammer was chosen as the platform and although social media successes within companies are few and far between, it took off.

”Yammer is our shared virtual workspace. It links our 120 operations in 40 countries, bridging land and sea, continents and time zones in the process. The ­purpose is to engage all Svitzer employees by keeping us all informed of our business priorities, combined with ­creating a culture of sharing and collaboration in which local expertise and stories are shared,” says Head of Corporate Communications & Branding, Mika Bildsøe Lassen.

“The starting point is for the employees to be able to interact across the organisation. Historically, all communication has been from the top and downwards, and very little across the different regions, operations and functions,” she says.

Out of the silos
CEO at Svitzer, Robert Uggla is an avid user of Yammer.

“Many of our local operations have operated in silos without much visibility to the rest of the organisation. It was almost impossible for a crew in Milford Haven, UK, to have any understanding of what was going on in Ras Laffan, Qatar, even though both crews are part of the same global supply chain of LNG shipments,” Uggla says.

“Now our colleagues in one port share pictures, stories and ideas with colleagues throughout the organisation. For example, we have seen great examples of how crews across multiple operations have conversations on how to improve pilot transfers.

 

Suddenly, through the use of social media, it becomes very clear that we have access to a global organisation that holds a wealth of knowledge,” he adds. Also, the hierarchy to access information has been removed. While things have to be managed, not least from a safety perspective, generating ideas and understanding how to do things differently has never been easier. Uggla sees social media as “a very powerful tool” for that purpose.

“Finally, there is an option for local or specific, collaboration in smaller groups. Commercial and technical groups have been formed across regions, making the organisation a lot more efficient and less formal,” Uggla says.

Content is business related
Seeing how embedded social media is at Svitzer today, it is hard to imagine that none of it existed last year. Nevertheless, more than 1,000 Yammer accounts have been created, representing even more employees because tugboat crews, of up to nine, share a company e-mail address, which is the entry ticket. April had a daily average of 30 posts, 20 uploaded images, videos or documents and 330 file views.

“The Key factor to the success is without doubt, how the senior management team has embraced this communication channel. Robert Uggla is a very visible leader on Yammer, and his engagement together with high activity from most of our Regional Managing ­Directors has definitely been a key factor to the very fast success,” says Bildsøe Lassen, adding that the most viewed content is business related; how Svitzer is performing as a company, information on new wins or safety related discussions.

A democratic nature
Looking at social media with a critical eye, Bildsøe Lassen points to public criticism of individuals as a risk.

“We do not want colleagues to be criticised in front of more than 1,000 colleagues. Personal feedback on areas for improvement is better in smaller forums, often in physical meetings. Yammer is more suitable as a platform for celebrations, discussing solutions to problems and sharing stories about who we are and what we want to achieve,” she says.

This has not been a problem during the first year, and a self-regulation mechanism, which lies in the democratic nature of the media, may be a big reason for this Robert Uggla points out.

“When someone posts something, whether you like it or comment on it is up to you. Just because the CEO posts something, doesn’t mean it’ll get many likes. I have had plenty of postings with very few likes. In fact, the most liked postings are often about new contract wins. In general, there’s a very positive atmosphere on Yammer,” Uggla says.

He has his favourite topics, which he likes to comment on:

“There are a lot of achievements in our organisation you never hear about when you are based in Copenhagen. There are also many good ideas across the organisation on how to improve personal safety. These kinds of postings deserve the recognition of senior management, given the importance of safety to our company and Group.”

For Uggla’s personal social media endeavours, he is now looking to engage with external stakeholders, such as pilots, harbour masters, agents and customers in the same manner. The first step towards a solution: a personal Twitter account:

“I just opened the account, and we are trying to figure out, if there is an external interest in Svitzer, and if so what platform to use. It’s still early days, so let’s see where it takes us,” he says.

Robert Uggla’s Twitter handle is @robertuggla

 

Svitser seal
Although social media successes for companies are few and far between, it took off at Svitzer. The most viewed content is business related; how Svitzer is performing as a company, information on new wins or safety related discussions. But you also find a diversity of content ranging from pictures of polar bears, seals or kangaroos on tugboats.

Svitzer’s social media learnings

1. Understand the purpose.
Svitzer has a decentralised organisation with a lack of visibility across operations. Social media is one way to bridge the silos in
such an organisation

2. Be clear about the effort required to make it a success.
The organisation, not least the CEO and senior management, needs to be fully committed to investing time in it

3. Be aware that it is an ongoing effort.
Robert Uggla spends about 5-15 minutes on Yammer every day.
“If you’re not willing to allocate the time, you shouldn’t do it,” he says. Social media hinges on frequent interaction

4. Be open to differences.
Employees at Svitzer do not want to discuss the same things or in the same way. If internal social media is to work, you should not try
to control it, as long as the tone is decent